Worldbuilding #6a – Advanced Beaches

WB IconWelcome to another article of my Worldbuilding series. Before we go into designing what the rest of the land looks like, with mountains, rivers, deserts, and forests; I am going to show you advance techniques for doing beaches.

In our last article, we did a uniform design for our beaches. Beaches are anything but uniform. Some areas have a big beach and some areas have a small beach. Today, I will show you a technique that will enable us to capture an organic feel for a beach for our land.

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Beaches have a vast array of life and the sandy shore provides a filtration system for the salt water that provides nutrients for these creatures with the water sinking into the same and being channeled back to the ocean. Unfortunately, this information does not help you in doing worldbuilding.

So, let’s get started.


In designing our beach to appear more organic, we must look at our world in two different ways. By the ocean, and by the lakes. Seems strange to think about, that we focus on the water of the world when designing a dry area.

1. Uncheck Beach and Shallow Water Layer

Technically we don’t need to unchecked shallow water, but I myself prefer it for what we are about to do.

2. Click on Land Start Layer
a. Create 2 New Layers
b. Name the one directly above Land Start to Lakes/Beach
c. The layer above that to Ocean/Beach

3. Click on the World Base Layer
a. Set Primary color to E5CD34
b. In the Colors box, on the bottom right you will see “Transparency – Alpha”; Set this to 100
c. Select Magic Wand

For this tutorial and all future tutorials, always leave Magic Wand set to Contiguous. A little later I will show you why.

d. Select the Ocean itself

Make sure no lakes are selected, only the ocean

4. Go to Ocean/Beach Layer
a. Hit Backspace
b. Everything should be deselected. If not, hit ESCAPE

Now the map will appear dusty. If you are like me, you suddenly have a case of the dry mouth. Drink plenty of water when designing you beach.

c. Go to Effects -> Blurs -> Gaussian Blur
d. Set Width to 60

What Gaussian Blur does is it moves pixels in all directions at once. You will notice a blue outline around your land. What this has done is pushed the sand ocean onto the Land. Looking at the land, doesn’t look like anything has happened. That is because our Transparency is set too low. But that is done for a reason.

This effect is kind of similar (but not really) of how a beach is formed that the water brings sand and other materials to form the beach.

5. Add 25 to Transparency (now should be 125)
a. Go back to World Base
b. Select Ocean with the Magic Wand
c. Go back to Ocean/Beach Layer
d. Hit Backspace
e. Make sure everything is deselected
f. Do Gaussian Blur (do not do Repeat Gaussian Blur)
g. Subtract 10 from Width (should now be 50)

You may notice a little splash of colour for the beach. We aren’t done yet.

6. Repeat step 5
a. Add 25 to transparency (now 150)
b. Gaussian Blur Width -10 (now 40)

7. Repeat step 5
a. Add 25 to transparency (now 175)
b. Gaussian Blur Width -10 (now 30)

8. Repeat step 5
a. Add 25 to transparency (now 200)
b. Gaussian Blur Width -10 (now 20)

9. Repeat step 5
a. Add 25 to transparency (now 225)
b. Gaussian Blur Width -10 (now 10)

10. Change Step 5
a. Set Transparency to 250
b. Gaussian Blur Width to 5

11. Change Step 5
a. Set Transparency to 255
b. Gaussian Blur Width 2

Once you are done with that, and make sure you followed my directions and not assume you figured out my pattern (don’t worry if you did, just undo your work and go back), follow the next steps.

12. Go to World Base Layer
a. Select Ocean
b. Go back to Ocean/Beach Layer
c. Press DELETE

Take a look, zoom in on the coastline and see what you got. Your beaches now appear organic. The further away we go, the less apparent the beach is. Play around with the steps to find your ideal setting.

But there’s a problem. Now, there is sand in our lakes. We need to fix that. Let me show you a new way to use the Magic Wand to fix that.

13. Go to Lakes Layer
a. Make sure you Magic Wand is set to Contiguous
b. Find a lake, when you are going to click on a lake, press SHIFT (so a SHIFT+Mouse1)

All the lakes are now selected. So you don’t need to keep switching between the Contiguous and Global mode, you can now do either one very quickly.

c. Go to Ocean/Beach Layer
d. Press DELETE

Now, your lakes and Beaches are clearly defined. Now let me show you one more technique before making beaches for lakes. One of my islands is covered in sand, and I want it to be all green. Now I can just go ahead and delete it, but it requires zooming all the way in and precision with the Erase tool. Let me show you another way.

14. Go to Land Start
a. Select an island with Magic Wand (only need one)
b. Go back to Ocean/Beach
c. Select the Erase tool
d. Set Brush Width (up top) to 80
e. Now try to erase the island

You’ll notice that no matter where you try to erase, only the area selected with the magic wand is affected. This technique is useful much later in the series, I will explain it again when we come to it. Now we move onto lakes.

ocean beach


With lakes, you can either go to Lakes, select the open area, then Invert selection (Ctrl+i); or do a SHIFT+Mouse1 click on a lake itself. Your choice.

1. Set Transparency to 100
a. Go back to Lakes
b. SHIFT+Mouse1 click a lake (all lakes should be selected)
c. Go back to Lakes/Beach Layer
d. Hit Backspace
e. Make sure everything is deselected
f. Do Gaussian Blur (do not do Repeat Gaussian Blur)
g. Set Gaussian Blur Width to 100

2. Repeat Step 1
Transparency +20 (now 120)
Width -15 (now 85)

3. Repeat Step 1
Transparency +20 (now 140)
Width -15 (now 70)

4. Repeat Step 1
Transparency +20 (now 160)
Width -15 (now 55)

5. Repeat Step 1
Transparency +20 (now 180)
Width -15 (now 40)

6. Repeat Step 1
Transparency +20 (now 200)
Width -10 (now 25)

7. Change Step 1
Set Transparency 220
Set Width 15

8. Change Step 1
Set Transparency 240
Set Width 10

9. Change Step 1
Set Transparency 250
Set Width 5

10. Change Step 1
Set Transparency 255
Set Width 2

With that all done, select lakes one more time in Lakes Layer, then go to Lakes/Beach and press DELETE

Now, there is some overlap into the ocean. Go to World Base Layer, select the Ocean, then go to Lakes/Beach Layer, and press DELETE

The reason why we did a different method for Lakes than oceans, is because lakes are rather small, and so we must do more iterations than we did for the Ocean in order to get more visible beaches for lakes. Think of it like paint. Take a drop of paint and see how much you can spread it. Now a whole bucket, you can spread that very wide.

This also gives us some makeshift deserts.

lake and ocean beach

If you are not happy with the settings I’ve picked, go ahead and try to change them up to your liking. I myself may go back and try to find an optimum setting. It takes a lot of trial an error to find just the right setting, but as you cultivate your land, you will keep making choices about your beach. I recommend waiting until your land is more developed.

When you want to do your own settings, the think is this: The further away from the beach, the more transparent it is (High Width Low Transparency). The close to the shoreline we get, the more solid of a colour we want (Low Width High Transparency/Alpha).

For fun, turn off all the layers except the two today and see what it looks like.

Don’t merge the layers, keep the beaches for lakes and oceans separate. You will see why later. Below is a complete picture of what we’ve done today.

article 6a

Click to enlarge

Next article, I will show you Advanced Shallow Water. If you have any questions, thoughts, ideas, or you want any of my files, please let me know in the comments below. If you are doing your own design, please post a link to it, and it may feature on the site.

Help Keep This Site Running

This site is a great achievement for me, but due to being unable to work, I may not be able to keep this site running. With your help, I might be able to.

I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.

One comment

  1. […] Worldbuilding #6a – Advanced Beaches New technique I developed to make your beaches appear more organic, and completely customizable for your need. […]

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